In today’s Epistle Lesson from Romans, the Apostle Paul says: ” I appeal to you to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them.” Romans 16:17-24
Have you ever noticed that the people who cause the most trouble in relationships are the most needy? They are the ones who seem to hurt the most, are embittered the most, and lash out the most.
But notice the Apostle doesn’t say to “hate” them or “correct” them or “shun” them. He advises “avoid” them. Sometimes the best way to help someone who is their own worst enemy is to limit the amount of contact you have with them while they work through their challenges. But we are never allowed to stop loving them!
You see, dear ones, the Church is made up of people who are at varying degrees of their own spiritual healing. Some have barely slipped in the door and have stayed there their whole lives. Others have been wounded and are stuck in that wounded place imprisoned by their bitterness, hurt, and anger. Still others have slipped back from a previous place of healing and regressed in their spiritual journey toward Christ. If all of us are truly honest (when was your last confession?) we all have experienced times like this in our lives.
What the Apostle is warning the Roman Church about in the Epistle is the dangers of allowing these wounded people to set the agenda for the community. Paul warns the Romans that these wounded people are motivated by their own appetites and using “fair and flattering words they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded.” You see, these wounded people have an insatiable desire to “build their team.” They need to be confirmed in their “rightness” so they can continue to avoid confronting their own pain. This makes a lot of sense. Who really wants to confront their own darkness? It is so rarely a “pleasant” experience.
But what is at stake is the health of the community, and that needs the attention of the faithful as much as any single person in that community. Sometimes the “seed” from the Sower falls on hard ground (see our Gospel lesson today in Matthew 13:10-23). And, while that is sad and pitiable, we must not forget the seed that falls on the good soil and neglect the growing souls while we pour endless attention on the perpetually unhappy.
So, today, how are you dealing with the woundedness in your life and the woundedness of those around you? Are you being gentle with those who oppose themselves? Have you poured so many spiritual resources into someone only to see that work disappear into the “black hole” of their despair? Are you a source of conflict in your community? The Church wishes all to be healed and come to peace, and sometimes, the best way to bring someone to that place where they discover their own darkness is by recognizing they simply are not in a place where they can hear the truth.
No one is ever a “lost cause.” That would mean their “lostness” is more powerful than God’s grace, and that ain’t possible! But there may be a season of life where they need to be alone with their pain and woundedness to come to the place where they can ask for healing.
Today, be a source for peace and healing in your home, your community, your world. Practice the grace of peacemaking and gentle love, even in the face of rejection. And, perhaps practice the loving grace of distance when the other is simply not in a place to receive healing. This gentle and loving gift to ourselves and to all around us is meant to help the Sower till soil of men’s hearts to receive the seed of the Gospel of Peace and be made whole.